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Protecting and Restoring Wetlands in Vermont’s Otter Creek Watershed

Posted by Amy Overstreet, Vermont Public Affairs Officer on May 24, 2016 at 09:09 AM
Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont stand next to a sign on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek Watershed.

Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont are committed to protecting the wetlands on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek Watershed.

The Des Marais’ are living their dream in Brandon, Vermont. The view from their kitchen window looks out on a nearly 500-acre wetland where the Otter Creek meanders through pastures and grasslands and a diversity of wildlife thrives. That place is now Jim and Lyn Des Marais 1,250 farm.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to own this beautiful and historic property, and our goal is to preserve and protect it,” explains Jim.

And they are doing just that.

The Des Marais enrolled their wetlands into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE) component of ACEP offers financial and technical assistance to landowners who want to voluntarily restore and protect wetlands. 

“They are lifelong nature enthusiasts and firm believers in environmental stewardship,” NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Sally Eugair said.

Lyn Des Marais grew up on a dairy farm in New Braintree, Massachusetts. She says, “My mom made me an environmentalist and my grandfather made me a farmer.” Sally helped them realize just how remarkable the property was and how they could return the wetlands back to their original ecological functions.

“I knew we had a very special place here,” says Lyn. The Des Marais property was once farmed and the area was ditched to control water flow. The restoration plan will plug the ditches so that water can flow naturally again throughout the wetland. In addition, small depressions will be added to provide improved habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and amphibians.  

The Des Marais wetland easement is part of a cluster of easements that continues to grow along Vermont’s Route 73, thanks in part to Sally. Her outreach efforts have led to a total of 23 wetland easements in Rutland County. Together, they total 2,148 acres of restored and permanently protected wetlands along Otter Creek.

With the closing of the Des Marais wetland easement, more than 250 acres of the wetland will be restored back to original hydrologic conditions―Vermont’s largest protected wetland easement.

“With the addition of this large easement, and another easement downstream that will soon be secured, over seven miles of wetlands and riparian areas along the Otter Creek will be conserved,” NRCS’ Wetland Specialist Jim Eikenberry said. “Restoring the wetlands here will also improve the floodwater, sediment, and nutrient retention values of these wetlands and will benefit Lake Champlain’s water quality.”

The Otter Creek Watershed flows to Lake Champlain and is home to many wetlands that were restored thanks to the stewardship of private landowners. These vulnerable wetlands, once altered by farm ditches, are now safeguarded by permanent easements that ensure the protection of these critical ecosystems.

Jim says he doesn’t know if their children will one day chose to live here, but his wish is that, “the future owners will treasure this property as much as we do.”

A view of the wetland area on the Des Marais' farm.

Tags: Vermont, wetlands

categories Farmer & Rancher Stories , Conservation Programs

5 response(s) to "Protecting and Restoring Wetlands in Vermont’s Otter Creek Watershed"

Tina Graziano says:

So glad to see people protecting your environment,and not giving in to the industrial wind turbines, that destroy our wetlands and winged wildlife. Stay strong and thank you for doing what you do.

Smithf780 says:

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Jim Cook says:

Beautiful property and very inspiring story!

NRCS says:

Thank you for the positive feedback. Visit weekly to check out our newest blogs and program information.

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